This was a slow news week, so here are random thoughts and observations.
Last week I criticized lawmakers’ political pandering on new science standards, but this week, I saw a more positive side of lawmakers.
At a meeting of the House select committee looking into allegations of sexual harassment against a former lawmaker, the three Democrats — and especially the two Republicans — sounded like they are more interested in facts and reform than in political advantage.
Republicans Robert Benvenuti and Julie Raque Adams lost two votes on party lines. Adams suggested Benvenuti — a former inspector general in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services — chair the panel and she and Benvenuti suggested action by the committee require a super-majority vote of four.
They lost both votes 3-2 as Democrats chose Jeff Donahue to chair and voted to act by simple majority. But the general attitude was non-partisan.
Given the subject and the potential for Republicans to exploit the issue in next year’s elections, that bodes well for the committee.
We suffered through another week of back-and-forth between Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes trying to outdo the other in their loyalty to coal. Both blamed the policies of Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency.
No doubt stricter emissions standards make it hard for the industry to plan and expand. But has anyone noticed that the companies announcing layoffs of miners are shutting down existing operating mines, suggesting they can’t sell all the coal they’ve already mined?
Kentucky’s congressional Republicans are outraged over Obama’s “war on coal” and its impact on eastern Kentucky. But all five Republican House members voted to cut the SNAP or food stamp program by $40 billion, a program on which eastern Kentucky is more dependent than most of the country.
Apparently we’re headed for a government shutdown in Washington. A small number of tea party House Republicans prefer to shut the government down rather than allow the Affordable Care Act to take effect. But they’re enough to threaten Speaker John Boehner’s hold on his job, so he and the House leadership apparently will go along.
If “Obamacare” is such a disaster and so reviled, why do Republicans say “this is our last best chance” to kill it? Don’t they hope to win control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016? Then why threaten seniors’ social security, the pay of our soldiers, or the feeble economic recovery now?
Could it be they fear that once the law takes effect a lot of people may like it and some of the scary descriptions of death panels, government “takeover” of health care and soaring costs might prove inaccurate?
The same Republicans also threaten to hold an increase in the debt limit hostage. Polls show the public opposes raising the debt limit. But if you ask them if the United States should pay its bills, they’ll say, absolutely. The public reasonably wants spending controlled and Democrats need to compromise. But does the public really want to renege on our existing bills?
Isn’t it time someone in Washington (Democrat or Republican) explain what’s at stake if we default?
That it will actually increase the deficit, likely increase mortgage rates for many of those who are against raising the debt limit; and that most reputable economists think it might wreck our economy.
Aren’t Republicans supposed to be the party of fiscal and moral responsibility, the same people telling us SNAP reductions are necessary to cut off cheats and scofflaws?
Maybe it’s asking too much for straight talk or consistency from politicians of either party these days.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com.
This was a slow news week, so here are random thoughts and observations.
The Case of the Unhappy Robber
Norton, a professional burglar, looked upon himself as a kind of Robin Hood. The difference was that he took from the rich and kept it for himself. As a result, he spent more time in the slammer than he did in Sherwood Forest.
The toughest blow he suffered, however, was inflicted by the commissioner of motor vehicles. Upon Norton’s release from jail for the umpteenth time, the hard-hearted commissioner revoked his driver’s license.
Dream becomes reality only when you persevere
A young boy grew up in Berea, in a family that was blessed with a variety of musical talents.
His mother was a member of a female group who performed onstage regularly at Renfro Valley, in Rockcastle County.
This young man would routinely attend shows to watch his mother, and other artists, perform on stage. He was eager to learn from them every chance he could. He knew from a young age he wanted to pursue a career in the music industry and was willing to seek advice and mentoring from those who were experienced in the industry.
SOAR-ing in eastern Kentucky
By the time many of you read this, I’ll be traveling to southeastern Kentucky, on my way to the SOAR Summit scheduled for Monday in Pikeville (at least if the weather cooperates).
I’ll be listening to WMMT radio out of Whitesburg, the world’s most eclectic radio station. I’ll be among those magic mountains and with the wonderful people who live in the region and others who don’t but still love it.
If you don’t know eastern Kentucky, get rid of your stereotypes right now. Yes, there are poor, ignorant people in eastern Kentucky — just as there are in New York City, San Francisco or London, England.
Farming Misunderstood and Under-appreciated
As you look at your (I hope) full plate this Thanksgiving, take a guess at what percentage of your annual income you spend on food.
Whatever you guessed, you probably guessed too high.
“We pay as low as 6 percent,” Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, tells me at a conference table in his office. “In most other industrialized countries, it’s 20-25 percent.”
And if you were spending that much on food in America, Vilsack asks, “how big a house would you have? How nice a car?”
Recalling the day JKF died
This is written on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. A year ago I demonstrated my exquisite sense of timing: I wrote my personal remembrance of that dark day in Dallas last year on the 49th anniversary of the horrific events in Dealey Plaza.
Is the pipeline to career advancement broken?
“Honey, have you checked our financials this month?” An individual asks their spouse.
“Yes, and it’s not looking good. Our investments aren’t growing like we’d hoped, and the healthcare crisis is affecting the premiums and co-pays we’re paying every month,” replies the spouse.
The individual asks another question, “Do you think we’ll ever be able to retire?”
The spouse shakes their head and replies, “It doesn’t appear we’ll have that option anytime soon, especially if we want to maintain the lifestyle we have now.”
Life Lessons from lawyers, journalists and 10 years as a columnist
I have little in common with Walter White, the chemistry teacher turned drug lord in the TV series Breaking Bad, but the line about his motivation hit me.
In the decade that I wrote a weekly column, I touched a lot of lives.
At least one man stopped his planned suicide and got help after reading my column. (I still hear from him and he is doing fine.)
Register columnists share room for a day at Telford rehab center
So here we are, coming to you still alive from Telford Terrace Rehabilitation Center in Richmond where I am recovering from two strokes that kept me in St. Joseph’s Lexington Hospital for the better part of last week.
I was transferred to Telford where I intend to learn to walk again.
Memo to Merkel: Tell Obama to Take a Hike
Chutzpah. I believe that’s the word for it.
Just days after learning the Americans have been tapping her phones and taping her conversations, Angela Merkel has been publicly upbraided by the U.S. Treasury for being a bad global citizen.
What did she do to deserve this?
Congressionally Duped Americans
Last week’s column, “Is There a Way Out?”, generated quite a few responses, some a bit angry. Some people were offended by my reference to Social Security and Medicare as entitlements or handouts. They said that they worked for 45 years and paid into Social Security and Medicare and how dare I refer to the money they now receive as an entitlement. These people have been duped by Congress and shouldn’t be held totally accountable for such a belief. Let’s examine the plethora of congressional Social Security lies. I’ll leave the Medicare lies for another column.
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